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Wednesday, 13 January 2021 13:03

Sevenoaks School: Unlawful Selection Testing in School on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The lockdown has forced schools to make radical changes in their procedures and activities, but some are subject to looser rules than others. For example, the private Sevenoaks School has received approval from the government to continue setting its admission examinations for eleven-year-olds over this week and the next, inviting candidates into school. However, I believe this is not just bending the rules it is unlawful!

Sevenoaks School  

A letter to parents indicates that even the school was astonished to be allowed to go ahead. It begins: ‘Unbelievably, we have just received notification from the Department for Education that we can continue to administer admissions tests for entry this September!’. What on earth are state schools supposed to make of this special treatment?

The law is clear. The relevant part states: You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:………attend education or childcare - for those eligible.

In my opinion, testing for selection is not education in any sense, nor do children and families in most cases even fit the criteria for eligibility to attend education if it were. The responsibility for this flagrant breach of the law lies with the government who have chosen to make this an exception and override their own legislation, not Sevenoaks School who were originally prepared to cancel the exams in line with lockdown.  

A transcript of the letter to parents is as follows:

Sevenoaks School: Letter to Parents and Carers of Applicants:  6th January 2021        


Dear ………

Unbelievably, we have just received notification from the Department for Education that we can continue to administer admissions tests for entry this September! We will therefore reinstate the Verbal Reasoning tests which were to have taken place today.

Since Sevenoaks School is not open for classroom teaching, we will be able to test your children over two days, Tuesday 12 January and Wednesday 13 January, which means there will only be 15 children in each hall designed for 250 students, and as before, all safety precautions will be in place.

The time of your child’s test will be the same as that agreed for today, and we will let you know on Friday which day your child will be assessed – the Tuesday or Wednesday. If your child is unable to make one of those days please would you let us know by return.

I know that a few of you were unable to take the test this week as you have been self-isolating etc.  If this will still be the case by next week please could you let me know so that we can make alternative arrangements.

Thank you so much for your continued patience and very best wishes,

Arabella Stuart

Director of Admissions


It follows hard on the heels of a previous communication sent by the school to parents on the 4th December, which had followed the law by cancelling the entrance exams: Dear …..Following last night’s news that England will be in lock-down from tomorrow morning I am sure you won’t be surprised that we have had to cancel tomorrow’s Year 7 entrance exams. I am so sorry to have to give you this disappointing news. Thank you for bearing with us while we consider the best way to assess your child for Year 7 entry. We will be in touch with you next week in order to explain what the process will be. Very best wishes, Arabella Stuart Director of Admissions. 

Between them, the two letters make it crystal clear that Sevenoaks School was preparing to follow the law by cancelling the entrance exams, until government intervened by making them a special case. 

A further communication includes: 

  • Around 160 candidates of the 300 candidates will be shortlisted (we have 80 places to offer in total) and invited to return to Sevenoaks on either Thursday 21 or Friday 22 January for an English and a Maths test. Since there are no Sevenoaks students in school we have decided to spread out the tests to enable extremely safe distancing to take place, as for the VR tests.  
  • If someone in your family is particularly vulnerable and your child therefore cannot take part in the English and Maths tests, alternative arrangements will be made for them.

I understand that some other private schools are making arrangements which are legal, but it does raise the question of how the law will be enforced for the next two days of testing at Sevenoaks School.

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 January 2021 20:26


  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 January 2021 17:20 posted by Grammar School Headteacher

    Kent County Council has made clear that there is to be no In Year testing for grammar school admissions because of the law. Why should Sevenoaks get a special dispensation? Likely Answer - look at the parent and Old Boy circles to see who has influence in high places.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 January 2021 14:09 posted by Sorrel

    St Olave's in Orpington was due to have its second stage test this month and has had to cancel, with places just allotted on the stage one test. PETER: Perhaps the difference is that it is a state school and so not eligible for special government concession to break the law.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 January 2021 14:06 posted by Judith

    Has this illegal activity been reported to the police, after the Home Secretary urged a hard line be taken on lawbreakers? Or are there special arrangements for posh schools to ignore the rules?

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 13 January 2021 15:03 posted by James Hartson


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